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Troopships and the Regiment

York Detachment Pensioner Force
HMT Malabar c.1885
Soldier of 2nd Bn The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, Burma.

Once Britain started to gain possessions overseas, it became necessary to provide them with garrisons, and the troops involved had to be transported in ships. As the Empire expanded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, so the need for peacetime "trooping" in ships grew to be a major activity experienced by most Regular soldiers, much expanded in times of war, of course. Although air transport played a vital role in the Second World War, it was not until the late 1950's that the development of large passenger and cargo aircraft started to make possible the routine transport of large bodies of troops and their equipment by air; ironically, Britain was by then in the process of withdrawing from most if her overseas territories.

This Section tells the story of the Regiment's experiences of trooping by ship.

Table of contents

TROOPIN’
(OUR ARMY IN THE EAST)
Troopin’, troopin’, troopin’ to the sea:
‘Ere’s September come again – the six-year men are free.
Oh leave the dead be’ind us, for they cannot come away
To where the ship’s a coalin’ up that takes us ‘ome to-day.
We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome
Our ship is at the shore
An’ you must pack your ‘aversack
For we won’t come back no more.
Ho, don’t you grieve for me,
My lovely Mary-Ann,
For I’ll marry you yit, on a fourp’ny bit
As a time expired man.

The Malabar’s in ‘arbour with the Jumner at ‘er tail
An’ the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders for to sail.
Ho! The weary waitin’ when on Khyber’s ‘ills we lay,
But the time-expired’s waitin’ of ‘is orders ‘ome to-day.

They’ll turn us out at Portsmouth wharf in cold an’ wet an’ rain
All wearin’ Injian cotton kit, but we will not complain:
They’ll kill us of pneumonia – for that’s their little way-
But damn the chills and fever, men, we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day.

Troopin’, troopin’, troopin’ winter’s round again!
See the new draf’s pourin’ in for the old campaign:
Ho, you poor recruities, but you’ve got to earn your pay –
What’s the last from Lunnon, lads? We’re goin’ there to-day.

Troopin, troopin’, give another cheer –
“Ere’s to English women and a quart of English beer.
The Colonel an’ the Regiment an’ all who’ve got to stay,
Gawd’s mercy strike ‘em gentle –Whoop, we’re goin’ ‘ome to-day.
We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome,
Our ship is at the shore.
An’ you must pack your ‘aversack,
For we won’t come back no more.
Ho, don’t you grieve for me,
My lovely Mary Ann,
For I’ll marry you on a fourp’ny bit
As a time-expired man.

Rudyard Kipling